In these days of quarantine, there’s a renewed interest in “kicking it old-school.” While readers of Sharpologist have always been interested in traditional wet-shave methods, the increased attention on time-honored techniques is bringing the wisdom established over generations past to the forefront. One such method is shaving with organic goat milk soap.
A Brief History of Soap
Have you seen goat milk soap at your local farmer’s market and dismissed it as a current fad? It’s actually not. Soaps made from animal fats can be traced as far back as the ancient Egyptians.
Until the 17th century, the standards of cleanliness varied greatly and use of soap generally waxed and waned according to the circumstances of the time.
In the 1600s, bathing and cleanliness became more of a standard in European countries and soap began being produced commercially in the American colonies. Until the 1800s, soap was considered a luxury item and heavily taxed; when the tax was removed, soap became available to all segments of society and its use became widespread.
commercial soap used today, however, is very different from the soaps produced from animal fats for generations. During the first and second World Wars, animal fats became less accessible and chemical substitutes were developed. As a result, what we usually call “soap” and purchase in our stores is actually detergent.
|Consist of a ‘-COONa’ group attached to a fatty acid having a long alkyl chain.||Consist of a ‘-SO3Na’ group attached to a long alkyl chain.|
|They are not effective in hard water and saline water||They do not lose their effectiveness in hard water and saline water.|
|Soaps are completely biodegradable||Detergents containing a branched hydrocarbon chain are non-biodegradable|
|They have a tendency to form sum in a hard water environment.||These compounds do not form scum.|
|They are derived from natural sources such as vegetable oils and animal fats.||Detergents are synthetic derivatives.|
|Soaps are environment-friendly products since they are biodegradable.||These compounds can form a thick foam that causes the death of aquatic life.|
|Examples of soaps: sodium palmitate and sodium stearate.||Examples of detergents: deoxycholic acid and sodium lauryl sulfate.|
Why Shave with Real Soap?
Unlike detergent, soap produced from animal fats is bio-degradable. It is most often made from tallow or lard. While most people know that lard is pork fat, many are not familiar with the term tallow.
What is Tallow?
Tallow is goat fat. Tallow is made from rendering suet, the hard, white fatty layer surrounding a goat’s internal organs, particularly the kidneys and loins. To render means to heat at a low temperature, bringing the fat to a liquid consistency.
Tallow’s appearance is similar to room-temperature coconut oil or butter. It can be utilized for cooking, as a lubricant, as a biofuel, for the making of candles, and in skin care products.
The commercial name for saponified tallow is sodium tallowate. The tallow is combined with the lye (often sodium hydroxide) and the curing process (also known as saponifying) results in soap.
After saponification, no lye remains to irritate your skin. Soap is a surfactant, which means that it lowers the surface tension of water and helps bind the soap to the dirt and oil on your skin. When you rinse the soap off of your body, the dirt goes with it down the drain. It is for this reason that bathing with soap makes you cleaner than simply rinsing with water.
The Skinny on Fatty Acids
Most of us know that our diet requires consumption of certain amounts of essential fatty acids. We may not see the point in applying them to our skin. What’s the benefit?
The truth is that studies on the effect of topical application of essential fatty acids have been limited mainly related to the rare condition of essential fatty acid deficiency and wound care or prevention. Applying the findings to those without the condition is largely supposition.
Because these fatty acids are required nutritionally for our skin to address inflammation, repair, and moisturization needs, it is theorized that applying them topically on the outside as well could have cellular-level benefits if the essential fatty acids are absorbed through the skin and taken into the bloodstream.
Organic goat milk soap is high in several types of fatty acids. Palmitic acid is a saturated fatty acid that is cleansing and contributes to a stable creamy lather. Like Palmitic, stearic is a saturated fatty acid that contributes stable lather in soapmaking, but has a longer carbon chain.
Oleic is an unsaturated fatty acid that does not offer luxurious lather quality, but adds a slippery feel and contributes to the conditioning or moisturizing properties in a soap.
While further study to substantiate that topical application of essential fatty acids has cell-level benefit for the skin, what is known is that washing away excess oil and dirt while not stripping skin of its natural protections helps protect it from the razor bumps and rash that can result from shaving. For this reason, organic goat milk soap stands out as an excellent choice.
How to Shave with Organic Goat Soap
For that old school shave you’re wanting, whipping out an electric shaver isn’t going to cut it. There’s an art and a skill to traditional shaving. It’s a time-honored process based on quality, not speed.
1) Lather up with warm water and organic goat milk soap.
2) After washing, your beard will be softer and your skin will be warm and free of excess oil and dead skin cells that can clog your razor blade.
3) Shave in the direction that the hair grows. This is an important step to help prevent razor bumps and burns.
4) Rinse after each stroke with your razor.
5) Shave lightly to prevent nicks.
6) Store your razor in a dry area. Between shaves, make sure your razor dries completely to prevent bacteria from growing on it. Do not leave your razor in the shower or on a wet sink.
7) Change your blade or throw away disposable razors after 5 to 7 shaves to minimize irritation or contact with potential bacteria. It’s important to use a razor with a sharp blade.
Acne-prone or Sensitive Skin
Men dealing with acne should take special care while shaving. Shaving can irritate your skin and aggravate acne.
Due to its fat molecule content and natural emollients, goat milk has anti-inflammatory properties which help soothe irritated skin. Even those with sensitive skin should be able to use an organic goat milk soap with no razor bumps or irritation issues.
A Final Word on Shaving with Organic Goat Milk Soap
There are many quality shaving soaps available today. When considering what you’re looking for in a shave, you’ll want to consider products of respected, long-standing use along with the contemporary options.
Finding products that are good for both our bodies and the planet isn’t as difficult now as it once was. Like a good shave, it’s worth the extra effort.